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March 8, 2021

Another Romanian family in Belfast attacked

The over 100 Romanians attacked on Tuesday spent the night in temporary accommodation, under police protection. The Foreign Ministry asked UK authorities to prevent further attacks

Another Romanian family in Belfast, this time in Ballyhackamore in the east of the city, has been attacked, BBC News reported. The bathroom window of their home, on the Upper Newtownards Road, was smashed on Wednesday night. Police said that no-one was injured and that the attack was being treated as a “hate crime.”

Meanwhile, the Romanian Consul General was set to meet Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie over racist attacks in south Belfast which saw 20 families flee. More than 100 Romanians have been moved to temporary accommodation.

Twenty families stayed in a church hall on Tuesday night after leaving their homes. On Wednesday they were moved to temporary accommodation, also in south Belfast. There was also a police presence overnight at this site. Ritchie said the families could stay in the temporary accommodation for at least a week. Police do not believe paramilitaries were involved in the attacks. There has been condemnation from all the political parties. Many of those attacked have now said they want to leave Northern Ireland. Maria Fechete was quoted by BBC as saying she and the other people caught up in the violence had “had enough”. “I haven’t slept in a week – we’ve just had enough,” she said. Another Romanian woman, who did not want to be named, said she feared the attackers had come to kill her and her family, and she now wants to go back to Romania. Margaret Ritchie said the Housing Executive would talk to those people who had been moved about “their choices and their options over the next week.” Most of the Romanian families, who are members of the Roma ethnic group, spent Wednesday at the Ozone Leisure Centre in south Belfast, after being taken there from the church hall. They said they did not want to return to their Belfast homes.

Police defend romanian response

Belfast police have defended their response to a spate of attacks on Romanians. Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has defended the response of his officers and said they attended incidents “within 10 minutes.” He said that if people had wanted to stay in their homes his officers “would have protected” them. “If people want to leave an area our job is to protect them as they go … I can’t stop people moving,” he said. Sir Hugh said that in some cases police responded to calls from attacked Romanian families within one minute and in others it took them 10 minutes, but that it “was a complicated situation” for officers.

“Some of the incidents related to disputes between Romanian families, it was a complicated picture that officers faced,” he said. Superintendent Chris Noble said everyone could have done more. “There are people out there who know who was involved in the initial attacks,” he said. The prime minister said he hoped the authorities would take all action necessary to protect the families. On Tuesday night, the group of 115 Romanian people had tried to take refuge in a single house, but was eventually taken to the church by police minibus. Meanwhile, the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry, through the country’s embassy to Great Britain, firmly condemned these extremist, racist attacks and called on British authorities to take all necessary measures to prevent such incidents in the future. The Romanian Embassy is closely monitoring the situation and is in permanent contact with Belfast authorities in relation to the incidents. The embassy is also in contact with the Romanian church and the Romanian association in the Northern Irish capital, along with members of the families that were attacked. So far, the embassy has received no requests for consular assistance and there are no reports that any of the people involved were injured, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release. The ministry also underlined that the attacks were not directed deliberately against Romanian citizens, but against immigrants that live in parts of the city. Tensions between extremists and immigrants emerged after a Northern Ireland-Poland football match in March. In the last two months, about 50 Polish immigrants were forced to leave their houses in Belfast due to racist attacks.

Romanian meps voice concern

Also yesterday, two Romanian MEPs, Daciana Sarbu and Corina Cretu, voiced concern over the recent incidents involving Romanian citizens abroad and announced they were preparing a set of measures in the European Parliament meant to fight off the dangers faced by Romanian immigrants, Agerpres reported. The two MEPs referred both to the attacks on Romanians in Belfast and to the death of a Romanian in Naples. The latter was killed accidentally during a clash between rival mafia groups. The man was left to die and received no assistance from passers-by. Sarbu and Cretu also said that they would ask the European Commission to pass a strategy against extremist and vowed to support Romanian authorities’ efforts to support both the families in Belfast and the family of the young man killed in Naples.

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